The Cuyama basin, located in the central California Coast Ranges, was formed by extension during early Miocene time and was filled with a variety of nonmarine, marginal marine, and neritic to bathyal marine sediments. Low sulfur oil is produced primarily from the lower Miocene Painted Rock Sandstone Member of the Vaqueros Formation along a structural trend parallel to the Russell fault, which was active from 23 to 5 Ma. A major fold and thrust belt beginning about 3 Ma formed the Caliente and Sierra Madre ranges and partially obscures the Miocene extensional basin. Stable carbon isotope and biomarker data indicate that the lower Miocene Soda Lake Shale Member of the Vaqueros Formation is the predominant source rock for the oil in the Cuyama area. Burial and thermal history modeling shows that oil generation began in middle-late Miocene time and that oil migrated into existing traps. Younger traps that formed in the overthrust are barren of oil because migration occurred prior to the development of the fold and thrust belt or because subthrust oil was unable to migrate into the overthrust.
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Soda Lake-Painted Rock(!) Petroleum System in the Cuyama Basin, California, U.S.A.